So my window regulator broke recently, and I was fairly disappointed with the explanations and tutorials currently available online, so I made sure to document my journey as I figured out how to replace mine. I have found that no two window regulators are the same, and replacing them is a pretty specific process to the car you own. So this will be a detailed explanation of the front, driver's side regulator for a 2006 Hyundai Sonata. If you have a slightly different model or a different car altogether, chances are some things will be different and you may have to forge ahead yourself to figure them out. However, hopefully this explanation can be helpful to you, even if the only thing you take from it is a better understanding of how the regulator works and what the inside of a car door looks like. With that, lets move on and crack this baby open.
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Step 1: Tools and Friends
This is a complex job that requires a broad range of tools. I tried to do this project several times, and each time I started I realized I needed another tool and had to call it quits and try again. Unfortunately we are at the mercies of the Hyundai engineers, and have to undo what they have so marvelously put together for us, which means having specific drill bits and socket wrenches. Additionally, I ended up finally completing the project with my dad, and I'm not sure I could have done it by myself. There were several moments where we needed 4 hands to get the job done, so try and find a friend to help you.
Here is the tool list:
- Philips head screw driver
- Flat head screw driver (multiple sizes, but a small one especially)
- Utility knife
- Socket wrench
- 10 mm socket
- 8 mm socket
- Socket wrench extension bar (alternatively get "deep" style sockets ~3 in long)
- T20 torque bit
- T30 torque bit
- Drill bits (to drill through some rivets - regular drill bits are fine)
- Duct tape
- 4 small screws with washers/nut (to replace the rivets)
- Pliers (not required, but helpful)
Additionally, you are going to need a replacement window regulator (duh). I got mine at autozone for $60. I just went in and asked them to look it up. They pulled up the correct one on their system and luckily had it in stock for me. I read online that Hyundai dealerships were asking people something like $300 to replace it. So I figured $60 was a much better deal. (I did end up spending around $100 in total because I had to buy the torque bits and the socket wrench kit. But those tools will help with other projects, so I figured this was a good excuse to buy them).
ALSO: keep all hardware that you take off (screws, tabs, plastic covers...) because we will put everything back together at the end and we are going to need every piece.
Step 2: Explanation of Window Regulators
First let me briefly explain the scope of what we are up against. The regulator is the mechanism in the door that the window is actually attached to. The window is bolted to little "tabs" that travel up and down a metal track. There is an electric motor in the door as well, which powers the regulator. It does this by pulling a cable that is attached to the little tabs. So, when you click the button on your door, the motor starts turning, which pulls the cable, and causes the tab to move along the track, which lifts or lowers the window.
What goes wrong is when the cable either breaks or slips off its pulley system. In my case I had a frayed cable, and it caused the whole system to get off track. My motor was not broken or faulty, but the cable system had failed. This caused my window to fall down and not go back up. I could grab the window and pull it up, but it would slowly slide back down with each bump in the road.
The car door has 3 main parts:
- The interior plastic panel - with the buttons, handle, and arm rest
- The exterior metal - the actually body of the car
- The regulator panel - this sits in between the first two, on the inside of the door
The regulator system sits BEHIND the regulator panel (in between the regulator panel and the exterior of the door). What I saw online with other types of cars is that you can remove the old regulator system (cable system, track, and pulleys), and simply put in a new one. However, in Hyundai's the regulator system is permanently attached to the regulator panel, so we have to replace the whole panel. This means disconnecting everything on the inside of the door and then re-connecting everything through the new panel.
Step 3: Remove the Interior Panel
Ok so lets actually start taking things apart!
Start with unscrewing the interior panel. There are 7 Philips head screws. If they have a little plastic cover on them just pop it off. You can also remove the plastic piece around the door latch after you take out the screw.
Next, take off the tweeter speaker. It is attached with 2 clips, so it just snaps on and off. Use you screwdriver to pry it off. (Start at the top and work your way down).
Disconnect the wire from the tweeter. All of these wire connecters simply snap together. Its just a matter of find the tab and working them apart.
Now, we can pull the panel away from the door. It will still be attached by some wires, but we have to pull it loose to get at them. Pull the bottom of the panel to start. There are plastic snaps that come apart very easily, but they are spread out around the back of the panel, so we have to get them all. The last thing is top of the panel with the weather stripping, which wraps around the top and sits down in the window. Pull up on the panel to pry it out of there and it should come free.
Now we can see the wires on the inside. There are 4 connections to take apart. These can be a little tough to disconnect, especially while supporting the panel, but work at it and you'll get it. After that, the panel should be completely free, you can set it aside.
Step 4: Detach Window Glass
Now we can see what we're dealing with. The regulator panel is now exposed and we can see all of the wires and things snaking through and around. We are going to have to disconnect everything and pull everything through the holes to take out the panel. Then we can reverse it and put everything back through the new panel.
Start with disconnecting the glass from the regulator. There are two rubber caps in the middle of the panel that will flip down (use a screwdriver to pop them open). Our goal now is to lower the window to the right height so that the "tabs" come into view through these openings. Once the window is the correct height, securely tape it in place. Use your socket wrench with either an extension bar or with "deep" sockets (shown in picture) to undo the bolts - 10 mm. You don't have to remove these bolts, just loosen them enough until the window comes free. Once the window is free, tape it securely all of the way up. (You could remove it entirely, but there is no need to.)
Step 5: Disconnect Door Latch
Next we can disconnect the door handle latch. There is another screw at the base of it to remove. Then, pull the whole contraption back towards the back of the car and it should pop out.
Next we can disconnect the 2 cables. First, unclip the cable from the plastic backing. Next, slide the ends out of their holdings. Each cable has a metal ball tip. The tips slide into little slots inside the latch. Slide them out, and remember how they went it. This is actually a lot simpler than I thought it would be. Way to go Hyundai.
Now we have 2 loose cables. We will work with them later.
Step 6: Disconnect the Motor, Wires, Bolts
Now we can disconnect the rest of the items on the front of the panel.
Start with the electric motor. The motor is held in with 3 T20 torque screws. Take those out and then unclip the wire connector. This clip is more substantial and you will probably need to use a screwdriver to unclip it. You can see in my picture that the regulator cable is out of place and garbled into the gear system.
The wires are taped in place to plastic clips. Cut the tape with a knife to free the wires, but be careful (duh) not to cut the wires accidentally - take your time.
Next disconnect the wires from the side mirror. There is another clip that attaches to the metal to remove as well (see pictures).
Finally, undo the bolts around the edge of the panel - 10 mm.
Step 7: Brief Intermission With Thoughts
At this point we should have everything disconnected from the front. The panel is now loose, so you can jostle it around and probably lift it out of the door, but it is still connected to some wires from behind.
There are two main holes where the wires pass through the panel. The bundle of wires begins at the hinge of the door and pokes through the hole on the right. From there it separates out to the various plugs and connectors. One strand of it, however, goes back through the panel, on the left. This wire connects to the locking mechanism (presumably to power the remote lock).
It is *possible* to disconnect this wire by reaching behind the loose panel. However, at this point there isn't much room to fit your arm back there. And you would essentially be doing it blind. And this last connection is the most complex one. With all of that going for us, we are going to have to do a little workaround.
Additionally, as we begin to remove the panel from the door, you will have to work with the rubber pieces. Most of them have ridges to fit around the metal holes, so you will have to pop them out of the ridges to fit them through the panel. Also the two door latch cables might get in your way. As we work with the locking mechanism and are able to pull the panel free, make sure to pull them through their holes in the panel.
Step 8: Disassemble the Locking Mechanism
What we can do instead is disconnect the locking system from the other side so the whole thing comes out of the door. Then we can have room and space to disconnect the wire. The good news is that it is pretty easy to do this. The only bad news is that it takes a bit longer with more moving pieces.
Pop off the plastic cover on the end of the door with a screwdriver. Inside you will see another bolt, but guess what - this time its an 8 mm bolt! Give your friend a high-five for Hyundai's consistency. Be VERY CAREFUL taking this bolt out. My "deep" socket was long enough to reach in there, but if you drop the bolt, it will fall into the door cavity and is a beast to get out. This happened to me (actually as I was re-installing it) and we eventually got it out, but best of luck to you if you drop it. Maybe a magnet would be the best option to retrieve it. Anyways, usually bolts will stay inside the socket once they are completely free, and you can lift the whole thing out.
Once that is done, you can literally pull the lock out of the door. Then take the door handle off. Pull the handle back towards the rear of the car and it pop off. The handle is super easy to take out, but much harder to put back in - I'll explain the re-install in detail later. There are plastic pieces where the handle was, and there is a screw underneath one of them - take that bad boy out.
Next, undo the 3 screws on the edge of the door with a T30 torque bit (give another consistency high-five to your friend).
Step 9: Disconnect the Last Wire
At this point, the locking system on the inside of the door should be loose, and you can pull the regulator panel out from the door. There are several plastic parts near the lock, along with a strange piece attached to the actual regulator panel, so be mindful of what's going on there. Lift up as you do this to clear the panel from the bottom edge of the door.
Now you can access the final wire connection. This connection has a metal clip keeping it in place. Pop it off and disconnect the wires.
Now the panel is completely free from the door and all that's left is to pull the wires out through the holes. Be careful with the rubber pieces and work the whole string out.
Congratulations! You have successfully taken out the old regulator! Pet the cat to celebrate.
Step 10: Remove Speaker
This is the most annoying step in my opinion. So far we have only had to undo screws/connecters/etc. which we can easily put back once we replace the regulator. But unfortunately the speaker is riveted into the regulator panel. This means we have to hack something together to figure out how to break it off the old panel, as well as figure out how to attach it to the new panel.
There are several ways to remove a rivet, but all we had was a drill, so we just drilled them out. What worked for us was to get a larger drill bit and completely take off the top of the rivet. Don't worry so much about drilling down into the shaft. The speaker came right off once we removed all of the rivet heads. Watch out your drill doesn't slip and mess up the plastic piece the rivets pass through. We need that piece and those holes to re-attach the speaker to the new panel.
Unless you have some fresh rivets laying around, the easiest thing seems to be to screw the speaker to the new panel. We have a junk drawer of old, unused screws from past projects, so we were able to scrape together some small screws which did the trick.
Step 11: Rebuild
Once you have replaced the speaker, it's just a matter of reversing everything we have done so far.
- Feed the wire through the holes
- Re-attach the locking mechanism wire connection
- Feed the door latch cables their holes
- Rebuild the door handle/locking mechanism (see next step for details)
- Bolt the new panel to the door
- Lower the window into the new "tabs" and bolt together
- Re-attach the motor
- Re-connect motor wire, side mirror wire
- Re-tape the wire bundles to the panel (mine came with zip ties that I used instead)
- Re-attach the door latch to the cables and screw onto panel
- Re-attach the 4 wire connections to the interior door panel
- Snap the interior panel back on and fit the weather stripping into the window
- Re-attach the tweeter wire and snap back into place
- Turn on the car, roll down the window, and see the fruits of your labor!
Step 12: Door Handle Rebuild - Extra Explanation
This was the toughest part of the project. It definitely took 2 people to accomplish.
Begin by placing the locking mechanism that we re-attached to the wire connection back into the door and screwing into place. Make sure the plastic part is in the correct position, as you can see in the picture there is a little tab that slides over the metal of the door. The handle won't go in if this piece isn't in correctly. Screw the 3 torque screws back on too. The mechanism should be firmly in place now.
Now, we need to slide the handle back into position. However, this is tricky because it needs to grab the correct lever on the inside of the door. By peering in through the holes you can see the little lever. It's on a spring, so it's stuck in the "up" position. The handle has a tab that will grab the lever.
If you reach a screwdriver in, you can pull the lever back into the "down" position. However, the trick is keeping it in the "down" position while you insert the handle. I don't have a great picture of this part, but I will try to explain how we did this. I looked into the circular hole on the edge of the door that had a plastic cover on it. I looked above the lever and saw that when we pulled the lever, a piece on the top of the whole locking mechanism moved too - attached to the other end of the spring coil. I stuck my screwdriver in and jammed it against that other piece. This "locked' the spring in the "down" position, while leaving the lever clear of screwdrivers. My dad was able to insert the handle around the lever and snap it back into place.
After that, slide the lock back in and CAREFULLY re-insert the 8 mm bolt. This is the place that I dropped it into the door. Since you still haven't bolted the regulator panel on, you can reach your hand into the door as extra security and try to catch it if it falls.
Step 13: Completed
Congratulations! You have just taken your whole door apart and put the entire thing back together.
I don't consider myself a car person, so I was very happy that I was able to figure out this project. There are other videos and forums online that have more pictures and explanations that might be helpful to you. I did a lot of research and watched as many videos as I could, but there was nothing out there for my specific model of car that showed the entire process start to finish. Hopefully this Instructable can help you believe in yourself to take on a car project and save a chunk of change in the process.
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davidbee made it!